What exactly is “no-fault”? In New York State, it is a law that makes sure anyone injured in a car accident has insurance coverage to pay their resulting medical bills and lost wages, no matter who is at fault. There is no need to show who is at fault before the insurance company pays.
New York requires every car owner to buy car insurance that includes no-fault benefits. That way anyone injured in a crash has an immediate right to the no-fault benefit–even passengers who don’t own cars or pedestrians who are injured (no-fault benefits are not available to motorcycle operators or their passengers).
Usually, no-fault coverage is provided by the insurance for the car in which the injured party rode or that hit a pedestrian. If you have expenses greater than the medical bills and lost wages covered by no-fault, you may later have to prove who was at fault, in a lawsuit. But even if you don’t hire an attorney to bring a lawsuit, you are still entitled to have your medical bills paid immediately, so you won’t incur huge personal charges for medical treatment.
Here are some no-fault coverage examples:
A driver crashes into a tree and is injured. He applies to his own car insurer to pay his medical bills.
Two cars crash into each other and both drivers are injured. They each apply to the insurer of the car they operated.
In the case of a hit and run, or if there is no insurance, there is a state no-fault fund that helps the victim.
The no-fault law applies regardless of who was at fault. Even if your driving caused the accident, by virtue of the no-fault law, you are still entitled to have your medical bills paid. The benefit can pay as much as $50,000 for your medical treatment and lost wages, only. No-fault does not apply beyond the first $50,000 in expenses, or to future medical costs, pain, suffering, or permanent injuries or disabilities.
Notice of a no-fault claim must be provided to the insurance carrier within 30 days of the occurrence . . . and not one day later. If you don’t know who the insurance company is, you’ll need to quickly get a copy of the police report. That report usually includes the names of the insurance companies.
Obtaining your rightful no-fault benefits can be complicated, so it’s a good rule to get a lawyer’s advice, right after an auto accident, even if you don’t intend to bring a lawsuit. It is very important to know that you need not be concerned about the cost of consulting with a lawyer about no-fault benefits. If you have any questions about your rights after a car crash, including how to apply for no-fault benefits, many personal injury lawyers will not charge you for that legal advice.
Part 2 of this series will discuss what effect the No-Fault Law has on injured parties’ rights to bring lawsuits after car crashes, and how something called the Serious Injury Threshold limits those rights.